Adelaide witnessed something truly special when a completely new type of show, Celebration of the Motorcar, took to the immaculately manicured gardens of Carrick Hill one stunningly perfect late Autumn Sunday a few weeks ago.
The lush grounds were overflowing with some of the finest classic and sports cars this state has to offer, and were merely supplemented by the expansive views of the metropolitan area as backdrop. Thousands of attendees enjoyed the cars to the accompaniment of champagne, oysters and a string quartet from the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra.
Celebration of the Motorcar represents somewhat of a departure from most traditional car shows, largely because emphasis is placed on the experience of the attendee. The cars are there to serve the viewer, rather than the viewer attending a show about the cars. It’s a small detail, but one that ensured an interesting, eclectic, and most importantly a high-quality collection of vehicles. Entry to display was by invite only, and the cars were individually selected by a committee of advisers aiming to build the best possible display.
The concept, a mirror of the famous Pebble Beach and Ville d’Este concourses, is not a new one for this country as Celebration of the Motorcar has been previously held in Western Australia, organised by Automotive Events Management. The Adelaide event was held in conjunction with the Rotary Club of Adelaide, and acted as a major fundraiser for their work with the Huntington’s Disease, Meals on Wheels and Trojan’s Trek charities. With every attendee paying a $20 entry fee and a long line stretching out of the gate and a fair way down the road at the beginning of the day, it’s safe to say it was worth their while.
Celebration of the Motorcar enjoyed the support of the National Motor Museum at Birdwood, who brought along several cars from their collection including this original and factory standard Giocattolo Group B. Based on the Alfa Romeo Sprint Coupe and fitted with a mid-mounted Holden 5.0 Group A V8, the Queensland built rocketship is one of just 15 produced before the project folded as a result of financial constraints.
For me, the highlight of the show was this 1925 Rolls-Royce 20HP with coachwork by Vanvooren. The car was first fitted with more traditional coachwork by English coachbuilder Mackay, however in 1932-33 it was sent to France and updated by Parisian coachbuilders Vanvooren.
At the time it was unusual to fit such sporting bodywork to a Rolls-Royce chassis, but I think it looks stunning and its art deco detailing such as the steeply raked windscreen, glass paneled roof and minimalist door handles are just sublime. The way it mixes traditional English staidness with highly contemporary French influences is like nothing I’ve seen before, and it is almost a metaphor for how the two countries were developing socially at that point in time.
Adelaide is a surprising city from an automotive viewpoint and I’ve long maintained that we don’t know the half of what resides in our fair town; this Vanvooren simply serves to highlight that. The surprising part of this story is that this car was exported to Victoria immediately upon its completion in 1933, and has resided in Adelaide since 1962. It was restored in the mid 1990’s, and Celebration of the Motorcar was the very first time it has ever been exhibited at a car show. I wonder what else is here that we don’t know about?
If outright speed is more to your taste there was plenty on show to keep even the most diehard sports car fan happy, such as this Lamborghini Countach QV5000 shown for the first time after its seven year restoration.
Stepping back in time a little bit but with no less of a sporting nature was this incredible Lancia B24 Aurelia Spider with irreplaceably rare factory hard top. The Lancia Aurelia was built from 1950 until 1958 as a two-door coupe and four-door sedan, and was the first production car to be fitted with a V6 engine. With its Pininfarina styling and panoramic front windscreen, just 240 B24 Spider’s were built from 1954-1955 and only 59 were right-hand drive. This is another rarely seen Adelaide car, and is part of a prominent but private collection.
One of the most impressive assemblies of a single brand was undoubtedly that of BMW, spearheaded by a pristine example of the immortal M1. This is another Adelaide car and is not just the only M1 in Australia, but the only factory right hand drive example ever built.
It wouldn’t be Carrick Hill without at least a few dozen Rolls-Royce and Bentley vehicles, and in this regard Celebration of the Motorcar did not disappoint. One of the most visually arresting of the marque was this Bentley S2 Continental, fitted with Flying Spur coachwork by H.J Mulliner and displayed alongside a contemporary Continental. Out of a total production of 125 Flying Spur’s only 71 were right-hand drive, making the modern car seem rather mass produced in comparison.
This example had been meticulously restored, and whilst a few pundits did comment that metallic paint of that quality was never achievable in period, in this case I don’t think it matters. I’m typically in staunch opposition to the over-restoration of classic cars, but with this example the result is something that carries the impact and the spirit of the original, and the astonishment I felt when first viewing it must be somewhat representative of seeing one driving down the road in 1962.
The older car represents one of the longest produced models in the company’s history, being on sale from 1971 until 1995 with only minor changes. The later model car was produced only from 2000 until 2003, and is the last true Rolls-Royce before the company was purchased by BMW.
Bridging the gap nicely between fine French styling and American muscle power was this gleaming 1959 Facel Vega HK500, fitted from factory with a 6.3-litre Chrysler V8. When it was new it cost more than a Rolls-Royce and was faster than a Ferrari, which unsurprisingly resulted in a production run of only 489 cars. This example has just arrived into Adelaide from England, and was on display by the new owner for the first time in this country.
The event gave awards to cars selected by a team of judges consisting of Margaret Anderson, CEO of History SA, motoring journalist Paul Murrell, Frank O’Neill, President of the Rotary Club of Adelaide and Event Director Paul Blank. The team was not judging on condition or quality of restoration, rather they chose the cars from each category that exuded the greatest style.
Simply dripping with French sophistication was the Citroen SM, famously powered by the Maserati Quad-Cam V6. One of just 680 built with a manual gearbox, this 1973 example owned by Colin Cooter won the Postwar Non-Sports Car category.
Attendees had the chance to vote for the Shannons Peoples Choice Award, which was a landslide victory to the glamorous 1931 Packard Roadster of Peter Whelan. Complete with a full set of wooden golf clubs, the big Packard looked like it was merely sidetracked on its way to an exclusive country club.
For a first time event, Celebration of the Motorcar left a big impact on the Adelaide scene. Redefining what a car show can be, the outstanding attendance proved that people will eagerly come en masse when things are done correctly.
In addition to some regular cars that we all know and love, a very respectable number of rarely seen cars were attracted out of their sheds and garages and on onto the lawns for the crowds to admire. Celebration of the Motorcar will be back in 2015, and after the success of this years’ event I for one am excited about what might be on show next year.
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